Malaysia judges delay verdict in Anwar sodomy case

AP News
Posted: Nov 07, 2014 4:24 AM
Malaysia judges delay verdict in Anwar sodomy case

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's top court on Friday delayed giving a verdict in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's appeal against his sodomy conviction, the country's most sensitive trial.

Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria said the verdict, which will have far reaching implications for Malaysia's politics, would be announced at a later, unspecified date.

Anwar was sentenced to five years in prison in March on charges of sodomizing a male aide in 2008, after Malaysia's appeals court overturned an earlier acquittal.

Critics and human rights activists say the case against Anwar is the latest in a long-running campaign by Malaysia's government to silence its most potent threat. The U.S. and other Western governments have expressed concern over his treatment.

The trial, which lasted eight days, heard submissions from both sides, and the court said it needed more time to consider the case.

"The prosecution should have conducted it professionally, but here, you have so much venom and maliciousness," Anwar said as he left the courtroom.

Sodomy, even consensual, is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

If he loses the appeal, Anwar would also be banned from running for office for five years from the day he is released from jail.

Anwar was previously imprisoned for six years after being ousted as deputy prime minister in 1998 on earlier charges of sodomizing his former family driver and abusing his power. He was freed in 2004, after the top Federal Court quashed that sodomy conviction.

Prosecutor Mohamad Shafee Abdullah said Anwar had been given a fair trial.

"This is not a politically motivated case. This is a case involving a politician. When they are in trouble, they always scream conspiracy," Shafee said. "We are not a banana republic where the courts are being controlled by the government."

Prime Minister Najib Razak's party has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957, but faces declining support.

A guilty verdict could weaken the opposition and trigger tensions over its leadership. It could also create a wave of public anger, like it did in 1998, that could galvanize the opposition alliance.

Anwar led the three-party alliance to unprecedented gains in 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. Najib's National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote for the first time.